Archive for June, 2010

“Lovely Coming of Age Story”

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Following is a nice review of “Mary Mae and the Gospel Truth” by “School Library Journal.”

Gr 5-7–Mary Mae has always accepted the conservative, religious teachings of her family, including a very literal interpretation of the Bible. However, the arrival of her granny and a new teacher cause the 10-year-old to question everything she has ever known. When Miss Sizemore starts to teach the class about fossils, Mary Mae begins asking questions of the adults in her life, and her mother decides it would be better for Mary Mae to be homeschooled. At no point in the story does the child ever question the existence of God; she only sees God doing things in a different way. While her mother chooses to see science as an enemy to her beliefs, Mary Mae sees it as an extension of God’s work. Miss Sizemore opens her up to a new world, where inquisitiveness is not only valued, but is key. Here the relationship with Granny is also crucial to the story; she is always there to listen to Mary Mae and does not discourage her. This simple act of support gives the child the confidence she needs to not give up her quest for knowledge. This is a great story with valuable lessons. Told in an Appalachian dialect, it not only depicts real feelings about religion, but also shows the people behind them as good. It is both a lovely coming-of-age story and a lesson in respect between religion and science.–Kerry Roeder, The Brearley School, New York City

Brian Greene’s Musical, Icarus at the Edge of Time

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

At the beginning of Mary Mae and the Gospel Truth I quote from scientist Brian Greene’s This I Believe essay: “I believe that the breathtaking ideas of science can nourish not only the mind but also the soul.”  So naturally I was interested in learning of a multi-media musical he has written, “Icarus at the Edge of Time.” in which he re-invisions the Icarus myth.  Icarus, who is defying his father by flying too close to the sun, finds that his wax wings are melting, and plunges into the sea.  Greene gives this a modern twist by putting Icarus in a space ship and defying his father by flying too close to a black hole.  But rather than having him disappear for ever, Greene has him re-emerging, though many years later, learning of all that has happened during the time he was gone.

Greene, on the closing night of the musical, told the audience he always disliked stories that told children if they disobeyed their parents they would die.  “People laughed.  Children squealed,” says Robert Leslie, writer of the article.

If you would like to read more about this production, and a brief interview with Greene, click here. (http://www NULL.newscientist NULL.html)

A Review from Project MUSE, Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Johns Hopkins University Press

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

“Dutton dives deep into the rural speech of the Ohio River Valley without turning her characters cartoonish, and the varying views of the people in Mary Mae’s life, including her pastor, her great-grandmother, and others her mother respects, represent a variety of ways to balance faith and science; nor is Mary Mae’s mother demeaned as a person for her concerns.”


For the entire text of this review, please click here. (http://muse NULL.jhu NULL.11 NULL.stevenson16 NULL.html)

On “Read the Spirit”

Friday, June 18th, 2010

Just wanted my readers to see this wonderful review of “Mary Mae and the Gospel Truth” on (http://www NULL.readthespirit NULL.html):

“TODAY, we’ve got a great book for the entire family, especially if your family is related to evangelical Christianity. I can’t imagine a more engaging and compassionate slice of American life than the 129-page “Mary Mae and the Gospel Truth”—a novella for young readers by Sandra Dutton. Anytime we recommend books for “young readers,” we’ve selected them deliberately because we know adults will enjoy them as well. (If you don’t have a child at home right now, get this book and give it to a family that does—after . . . ”  [Click here to read the rest of the review: (http://www NULL.readthespirit NULL.html)]

Starred Review from Publishers Weekly

Monday, June 14th, 2010

*Mary Mae and the Gospel Truth
Sandra Dutton, Houghton Mifflin, $15 (144p) ISBN 978-0-547-24966-7
Mary Mae’s inquiring mind and keen observational skills get affirmation from her fifth-grade teacher but distress her creationist mother. Refusing to take her pastor’s advice to “trust the Bible scholars,” Mary Mae ends up with more and more questions as she tries to reconcile the Bible’s account of creation with what she’s learning in class about fossils and the age of the earth. Eventually, Mary Mae’s questioning leads her frustrated mother to yank her out of school to provide Bible-based homeschooling. “Why can’t you be my sweet little Mary Mae?” she asks. “It’s all so easy if you just believe what the Bible says and don’t go asking no questions.” Dutton (Dear Miss Perfect) sensitively navigates the sticky debate between creationism and evolution both through the young narrator’s delightful curiosity and honest questions, and through the various responses she receives from numerous caring adults, who all strive to provide truthful guidance. Concluding with a pastor’s affirmation that faithful people can have different opinions, it’s an honest portrayal that respects both viewpoints, as well as those that slot somewhere in between. Ages 8–12. (June)

Noah’s Ark Puppet Show

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

Mrs. Noah and Noah

 Noah’s Ark Puppet Show

One doesn’t hear much about Noah’s wife in Genesis, but writers of the medieval miracle plays dug deep into the story and came up with a feisty Mrs. Noah who speaks her mind.  In “Noah and His Sons,” by the Wakefield master, Mrs. Noah sits and spins, refusing to board the boat, saying there won’t be enough food and that she’ll miss her friends.  In “Noah’s Flood” of the Chester Pageant, she refuses to board, saying to Noah:

Yea, sir, set up your sail,

And row forth with evil hail,

For, without any fail,

I will not out of this town.

Finally, when she does board, she boxes Noah on the ear.  (In both plays they’re constantly hitting each other.) Of course this is all a bit of a comedy.  The miracle plays were performed not only to dramatize the stories of the Bible but to entertain.

In Mary Mae and the Gospel Truth, Mary Mae’s “Mrs. Noah” is feisty.  She’s concerned that dangerous animals are running loose, that they won’t be able keep the boat clean.  “Now we got some mighty big animals,” she says, “and they’s using their cage for a litter box.” 

Since I have both puppets and theatre (I describe making those in earlier blogs), I decided to try and perform the play, taking both Mary Mae and Chester’s parts (Noah and Mrs. Noah).  The puppets are rather fragile, being made of florists’ foam, but I think if kids were doing this with wooden puppets, some butting of heads would be in order. 

If you hit the link, you can see the video. 

Noah’s ArK Puppet Show